Slugs, I will have you know, are an inescapable part of the garden. But then again, this should come as no surprise if you happen to take an interest in gardening.
As with any component of a natural ecosystem, slugs have both benefits and drawbacks to their presence.
They destroy vegetation and fruit and effectively hinder regrowth. Also, slug colonies can eat away at root clusters and dislodge plants and sometimes even trees. It loosens the soil and increases runoff during the monsoons.
On the flipside, slugs serve as food for animals higher in the food chain than them. They help clean up garden debris by eating dead detritus. Also, they recycle organic matter and aid in making the soil rich in nutrients.
So the question remains the same. Are Slugs bad for Plants?
The short answer? Yes, Slugs are bad for your plants. Even though slugs form an essential part of the ecosystem in their natural state, they are harmful to your plants should not be allowed to fester and develop.
The primary reason for this is the fact that slugs use plants as their sustenance. When unchecked, this can destroy crops and stem the natural growth of plants.
Tender leaves and plants are most affected, and in some extreme cases, certain plants can also die from collective slug infestations.
Soil aggregation, a practice known to aid farming, often furthers the cause of slugs by sheltering them. It causes populations to multiply.
Why are slugs harmful to plants?
Slugs and snails pose a host of threats to plants.
- If a slug or a snail happens to be a vigorous climber, they climb trees to reach flowers and fruits. It demolishes the flowers and devours the fruits just as they turn ripe. Frequent traversal of young branches by the pests leads to a loss of natural texture. It wears the stems down and turns them smooth.
- Slugs are eminently capable of wreaking havoc under the ground. They eat away at the root and eventually form networks that displace the root from its foundation. If left neglected, the slugs can make their way to other plants’ neighboring roots, leading to mass displacement.
- Slugs are often responsible for eating at bulbs right after emergence. As there is not much development, the plant is in danger when its faculties are not yet prepared to resist a pest attack. It affects future growth and can lead to a drop in quality. The same applies to seedlings and saplings, where a sizable slug population is entirely able to mow them down just as they begin to sprout.
- Have you ever wondered about how slug populations seem to grow so quickly? It is because of a simple phenomenon where slugs exert a particular kind of mucus when they move. The trail left behind attracts other slugs, causing them all to band together.
- Snails and slugs are potential hosts of the rat lungworm. A parasite that primarily affects rats, they make its way into rat bodies through the blood vessels. Eggs are hatched, deposited into the lungs and in the mouth- from where they eventually discharge through excreta.
It, if in contact with humans, can cause serious problems. It travels to the brain and quite firmly refuses to leave. It leads to high fever, a deteriorating immune system, intestinal problems, etc. You can often find
cases of Salmonella to be a consequence of slug infestations.
How to get rid of slugs and snails?
Use plants as a natural deterrent: The use of pesticides does not always have to be grounded in chemical use; it can also mean the strategic plantation of trees known to repel slugs.
Several different plants give off scents that help keep slugs and snails at bay. These include Astrantia, Wormwood, Rue, Fennel, and Rosemary.
- Slugs take shelter bricks, logs, and garden furniture. It is wise to minimize accessories that can serve as breeding grounds for slugs and snails. In addition, if you are looking to keep things as natural as possible- encourage the presence of natural predators( to slugs) in the garden. Toads, hedgehogs, and certain birds fit the bill.
- Create a prickly barrier: Slugs and snails both belong to the mollusk family and have soft bodies. A prickly obstacle deters them more efficiently than something smoother, as the thorns/spokes are abrasive to their skin. You can easily construct a fence of the sort – use either a mixture of sand and pebbles, ground-up gravel, or pine needles.
- Beer traps: An unconventional but effective way to get rid of slugs- a bear trap! It is as it sounds- a container half-filled with beer concealed near the plants to act as bait for the slugs. They are lured in by the wafting aroma of beer, climbing into the container unsuspectingly and meeting a sticky ending. Quite literally.
- Copper Tape: The use of copper tape is very effective in keeping slugs and snails at bay. Slug slime reacts with copper to create an odd effect- one that is similar to an electric shock. Too many shocks and the mollusks will know to maintain a safe distance. Use as and where required- around potted plants, near fences and flower beds, and greenhouse staging.
How do I stop slugs eating my plants?
An age-old remedy that works for a host of different things, the salt cure has its way with slugs too.
Sprinkling salt on leaves, branches, and other frequently targeted areas will get the slugs in your garden the opposite of an appetite. Exercise caution, however, as too much salt can adversely affect the plant pH.
Another way to get the slugs to stop devouring your garden is to apply nematodes to the soil. They act as parasites to the pests.
The method is simple- all you need to do is create a solution of nematodes and water and apply it to the soil—quick, effective.
Suppose you are unwilling to use salt in the garden, an alternative that employs a natural, though the unsightly remedy is to feed the slugs bran.
Slugs love bran and eat to the point of bursting. On the off chance that it does not happen, you can be sure that a bird will find them for dinner the very day. Bran is also much healthier for the garden- it does not affect soil quality and fertilizers.
As someone who prefers natural solutions to chemical ones, I have found that eggshells work very well. The smell repels the snails while the hard shells deter attempts to infiltrate the barrier to get to the plants.
Another trick you might want to have up your sleeve is deception to trap the slugs. You can put certain items in empty glass jars or milk cartons in and around dark areas like underneath logs and fences.
The foods that attract them are citrus fruits like grapefruit or lemon rinds, dry pet food, and cabbage leaves. Strawberries are another fruit that is sure to attract the slug populace.
It is not difficult to implement a system in coherence with the natural ecosystem of the garden. There are proofs that the inclusion of bird feeders and birdbaths work wonders in keeping slugs from taking over.
Is it good to have slugs in the garden?
Even though known to disrupt the ecology of gardens, Slugs are also responsible for getting rid of a lot of the debris that clogs up the garden.
Think of them as nature’s trash can, with a few disadvantages. In addition, they recycle organic matter- thereby, improving and increasing the nutrient content of the soil.
Slugs also have a high nitrogen content and, once dead, add a lot of value to the soil.
Are all slugs bad for the garden?
Generally regarded as detrimental to the garden, some slugs can be good for the garden. At the very least, they do not pose any severe harm.
These slugs include the Leopard slug, the yellow slug, and the girdled snail.
To conclude, in the spirit of brevity, slugs are bad for plants.
They are natural inhabitants of the garden, but it is the gardener’s responsibility to keep an eye on them and keep them at a safe distance from the plants. As you would know upon reading the article, there are several ways to go about this, all of them are quite easy.